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Chapter 3

The sands are number'd, that make up my life;
Here must I stay, and here my life must end.
HENRY VI. ACT. I. SCENE IV.


When Raymond Berenger had despatched his mission to the Prince of
Powys, he was not unsuspicious, though altogether fearless, of the
result. He sent messengers to the several dependants who held
their fiefs by the tenure of _cornage_, and warned them to be
on the alert, that he might receive instant notice of the approach
of the enemy. These vassals, as is well known, occupied the
numerous towers, which, like so many falcon-nests, had been built
on the points most convenient to defend the frontiers, and were
bound to give signal of any incursion of the Welsh, by blowing
their horns; which sounds, answered from tower to tower, and from
station to station, gave the alarm for general defence. But
although Raymond considered these precautions as necessary, from
the fickle and precarious temper of his neighbours, and for
maintaining his own credit as a soldier, he was far from believing
the danger to be imminent; for the preparations of the Welsh;
though on a much more extensive scale than had lately been usual,
were as secret, as their resolution of war had been suddenly
adopted.

It was upon the second morning after the memorable festival of
Castell-Coch, that the tempest broke on the Norman frontier. At
first a single, long, and keen bugle-blast, announced the approach
of the enemy; presently the signals of alarm were echoed from
every castle and tower on the borders of Shropshire, where every
place of habitation was then a fortress. Beacons were lighted upon
crags and eminences, the bells were rung backward in the churches
and towns, while the general and earnest summons to arms announced
an extremity of danger which even the inhabitants of that
unsettled country had not hitherto experienced.

Amid this general alarm, Raymond Berenger, having busied himself
in arranging his few but gallant followers and adherents, and
taken such modes of procuring intelligence of the enemy's strength
and motions as were in his power, at length ascended the watch-
tower of the castle, to observe in person the country around,
already obscured in several places by the clouds of smoke, which
announced the progress and the ravages of the invaders. He was
speedily joined by his favourite squire, to whom the unusual
heaviness of his master's looks was cause of much surprise, for
till now they had ever been blithest at the hour of battle. The
squire held in his hand his master's helmet, for Sir Raymond was
all armed, saving the head.

"Dennis Morolt," said the veteran soldier, "are our vassals and
liegemen all mustered?"

"All, noble sir, but the Flemings, who are not yet come in."

"The lazy hounds, why tarry they?" said Raymond. "Ill policy it is
to plant such sluggish natures in our borders. They are like their
own steers, fitter to tug a plough than for aught that requires
mettle."

"With your favour," said Dennis, "the knaves can do good service
notwithstanding. That Wilkin Flammock of the Green can strike like
the hammers of his own fulling-mill."

"He will fight, I believe, when he cannot help it," said Raymond;
"but he has no stomach for such exercise, and is as slow and as
stubborn as a mule."

"And therefore are his countrymen rightly matched against the
Welsh," replied Dennis Morolt, "that their solid and unyielding
temper may be a fit foil to the fiery and headlong dispositions of
our dangerous neighbours, just as restless waves are best opposed
by steadfast rocks.--Hark, sir, I hear Wilkin Flammock's step
ascending the turret-stair, as deliberately as ever monk mounted
to matins."

Step by step the heavy sound approached, until the form of the
huge and substantial Fleming at length issued from the turret-door
to the platform where they "were conversing. Wilkin Flammock was
cased in bright armour, of unusual weight and thickness, and
cleaned with exceeding care, which marked the neatness of his
nation; but, contrary to the custom of the Normans, entirely
plain, and void of carving, gilding, or any sort of ornament. The
basenet, or steel-cap, had no visor, and left exposed a broad
countenance, with heavy and unpliable features, which announced
the character of his temper and understanding. He carried in his
hand a heavy mace.

"So, Sir Fleming," said the Castellane, "you are in no hurry,
methinks, to repair to the rendezvous."

"So please you," answered the Fleming, "we were compelled to
tarry, that we might load our wains with our bales of cloth and
other property."

"Ha! wains?--how many wains have you brought with you?"

"Six, noble sir," replied Wilkin.

"And how many men?" demanded Raymond Berenger.

"Twelve, valiant sir," answered Flammock.

"Only two men to each baggage-wain? I wonder you would thus
encumber yourself," said Berenger.

"Under your favour, sir, once more," replied Wilkin, "it is only
the value which I and my comrades set upon our goods, that
inclines us to defend them with our bodies; and, had we been
obliged to leave our cloth to the plundering clutches of yonder
vagabonds, I should have seen small policy in stopping here to
give them the opportunity of adding murder to robbery. Gloucester
should have been my first halting-place."

The Norman knight gazed on the Flemish artisan, for such was
Wilkin Flammock, with such a mixture of surprise and contempt, as
excluded indignation. "I have heard much," he said, "but this is
the first time that I have heard one with a beard on his lip
avouch himself a coward."

"Nor do you hear it now," answered Flammock, with the utmost
composure--"I am always ready to fight for life and property; and
my coming to this country, where they are both in constant danger,
shows that I care not much how often I do so. But a sound skin is
better than a slashed one, for all that."

"Well," said Raymond Berenger, "fight after thine own fashion, so
thou wilt but fight stoutly with that long body of thine. We are
like to have need for all that we can do.--Saw you aught of these
rascaille Welsh?--have they Gwenwyn's banner amongst them?"

"I saw it with the white dragon displayed," replied Wilkin; "I
could not but know it, since it was broidered in my own loom."

Raymond looked so grave upon this intelligence, that Dennis
Morolt, unwilling the Fleming should mark it, thought it necessary
to withdraw his attention. "I can tell thee," he said to
Flammock, "that when the Constable of Chester joins us with his
lances, you shall see your handiwork, the dragon, fly faster
homeward than ever flew the shuttle which wove it."

"It must fly before the Constable comes up, Dennis Morolt," said
Berenger, "else it will fly triumphant over all our bodies."

"In the name of God and the Holy Virgin!" said Dennis, "what may
you mean, Sir Knight?--not that we should fight with the Welsh
before the Constable joins us?"--He paused, and then, well
understanding the firm, yet melancholy glance, with which his
master answered the question, he proceeded, with yet more vehement
earnestness--"You cannot mean it--you cannot intend that we shall
quit this castle, which we have so often made good against them,
and contend in the field with two hundred men against thousands?--
Think better of it, my beloved master, and let not the rashness of
your old age blemish that character for wisdom and warlike skill,
which your former life has so nobly won."

"I am not angry with you for blaming my purpose, Dennis," answered
the Norman, "for I know you do it in love to me and mine. But,
Dennis Morolt, this thing must be--we must fight the Welshmen
within these three hours, or the name of Raymond Berenger must be
blotted from the genealogy of his house."

"And so we will--we will fight them, my noble master," said the
esquire; "fear not cold counsel from Dennis Morolt, where battle
is the theme. But we will fight them under the walls of the
castle, with honest Wilkin Flammock and his crossbows on the wall
to protect our flanks, and afford us some balance against the
numerous odds."

"Not so, Dennis," answered his master--"In the open field we must
fight them, or thy master must rank but as a mansworn knight.
Know, that when I feasted yonder wily savage in my halls at
Christmas, and when the wine was flowing fastest around, Gwenwyn
threw out some praises of the fastness and strength of my castle,
in a manner which intimated it was these advantages alone that had
secured me in former wars from defeat and captivity. I spoke in
answer, when I had far better been silent; for what availed my
idle boast, but as a fetter to bind me to a deed next to madness?
If, I said, a prince of the Cymry shall come in hostile fashion
before the Garde Doloureuse, let him pitch his standard down in
yonder plain by the bridge, and, by the word of a good knight, and
the faith of a Christian man, Raymond Berenger will meet him as
willingly, be he many or be he few, as ever Welshman was met
withal."

Dennis was struck speechless when he heard of a promise so rash,
so fatal; but his was not the casuistry which could release his
master from the fetters with which his unwary confidence had bound
him. It was otherwise with Wilkin Flammock. He stared--he almost
laughed, notwithstanding the reverence due to the Castellane, and
his own insensibility to risible emotions. "And is this all?" he
said. "If your honour had pledged yourself to pay one hundred
florins to a Jew or to a Lombard, no doubt you must have kept the
day, or forfeited your pledge; but surely one day is as good as
another to keep a promise for fighting, and that day is best in
which the promiser is strongest. But indeed, after all, what
signifies any promise over a wine flagon?"

"It signifies as much as a promise can do that is given elsewhere.
The promiser," said Berenger, "escapes not the sin of a word-
breaker, because he hath been a drunken braggart."

"For the sin," said Dennis, "sure I am, that rather than you
should do such a deed of dole, the Abbot of Glastonbury would
absolve you for a florin."

"But what shall wipe out the shame?" demanded Berenger--"how shall
I dare to show myself again among press of knights, who have
broken my word of battle pledged, for fear of a Welshman and his
naked savages? No! Dennis Morolt, speak on it no more. Be it for
weal or wo, we fight them to-day, and upon yonder fair field."

"It may be," said Flammock, "that Gwenwyn may have forgotten the
promise, and so fail to appear to claim it in the appointed space;
for, as we heard, your wines of France flooded his Welsh brains
deeply."

"He again alluded to it on the morning after it was made," said
the Castellane--"trust me, he will not forget what will give him
such a chance of removing me from his path for ever."

As he spoke, they observed that large clouds of dust, which had
been seen at different points of the landscape, were drawing down
towards the opposite side of the river, over which an ancient
bridge extended itself to the appointed place of combat. They were
at no loss to conjecture the cause. It was evident that Gwenwyn,
recalling the parties who had been engaged in partial devastation,
was bending with his whole forces towards the bridge and the plain
beyond it.

"Let us rush down and secure the pass," said Dennis Morolt; "we
may debate with them with some equality by the advantage of
defending the bridge. Your word bound you to the plain as to a
field of battle, but it did not oblige you to forego such
advantages as the passage of the bridge would afford. Our men, our
horses, are ready--let our bowmen secure the banks, and my life on
the issue."

"When I promised to meet him in yonder field, I meant," replied
Raymond Berenger, "to give the Welshman the full advantage of
equality of ground. I so meant it--he so understood it; and what
avails keeping my word in the letter, if I break it in the sense?
We move not till the last Welshman has crossed the bridge; and
then--"

"And then," said Dennis, "we move to our death!--May God forgive
our sins!--But--"

"But what?" said Berenger; "something sticks in thy mind that
should have vent."

"My young lady, your daughter the Lady Eveline--"

"I have told her what is to be. She shall remain in the castle,
where I will leave a few chosen veterans, with you, Dennis, to
command them. In twenty-four hours the siege will be relieved, and
we have defended it longer with a slighter garrison. Then to her
aunt, the Abbess of the Benedictine sisters--thou, Dennis, wilt
see her placed there in honour and safety, and my sister will care
for her future provision as her wisdom shall determine." "_I_
leave you at this pinch!" said Dennis Morolt, bursting into tears
--"_I_ shut myself up within walls, when my master rides to
his last of battles!--_I_ become esquire to a lady, even
though it be to the Lady Eveline, when he lies dead under his
shield!--Raymond Berenger, is it for this that I have buckled thy
armour so often?"

The tears gushed from the old warrior's eyes as fast as from those
of a girl who weeps for her lover; and Raymond, taking him kindly
by the hand, said, in a soothing tone, "Do not think, my good old
servant, that, were honour to be won, I would drive thee from my
side. But this is a wild and an inconsiderate deed, to which my
fate or my folly has bound me. I die to save my name from
dishonour; but, alas! I must leave on my memory the charge of
imprudence."

"Let me share your imprudence, my dearest master," said Dennis
Morolt, earnestly--"the poor esquire has no business to be thought
wiser than his master. In many a battle my valour derived some
little fame from partaking in thee deeds which won your renown--
deny me not the right to share in that blame which your temerity
may incur; let them not say, that so rash was his action, even his
old esquire was not permitted to partake in it! I am part of
yourself--it is murder to every man whom you take with you, if you
leave me behind."

"Dennis," said Berenger, "you make me feel yet more bitterly the
folly I have yielded to. I. would grant you the boon you ask, sad
as it is--But my daughter--"

"Sir Knight," said the Fleming, who had listened to this dialogue
with somewhat less than his usual apathy, "it is not my purpose
this day to leave this castle; now, if you could trust my troth to
do what a plain man may for the protection of my Lady Eveline--"

"How, sirrah!" said Raymond; "you do not propose to leave the
castle? Who gives you right to propose or dispose in the case,
until my pleasure is known?"

"I shall be sorry to have words with you, Sir Castellane," said
the imperturbable Fleming;--"but I hold here, in this township,
certain mills, tenements, cloth-yards, and so forth, for which I
am to pay man-service in defending this Castle of the Garde
Doloureuse, and in this I am ready. But if you call on me to march
from hence, leaving the same castle defenceless, and to offer up
my life in a battle which you acknowledge to be desperate, I must
needs say my tenure binds me not to obey thee."

"Base mechanic!" said Morolt, laying his hand on his dagger, and
menacing the Fleming.

But Raymond Berenger interfered with voice and hand--"Harm him
not, Morolt, and blame him not. He hath a sense of duty, though
not after our manner; and he and his knaves will fight best behind
stone walls. They are taught also, these Flemings, by the practice
of their own country, the attack and defence of walled cities and
fortresses, and are especially skilful in working of mangonels and
military engines. There are several of his countrymen in the
castle, besides his own followers. These I propose to leave
behind; and I think they will obey him more readily than any but
thyself--how think'st thou? Thou wouldst not, I know, from a
miscontrued point of honour, or a blind love to me, leave this
important place, and the safety of Eveline, in doubtful hands?"

"Wilkin Flammock is but a Flemish clown, noble sir," answered
Dennis, as much overjoyed as if he had obtained some important
advantage; "but I must needs say he is as stout and true as any
whom you might trust; and, besides, his own shrewdness will teach
him there is more to be gained by defending such a castle as this,
than by yielding it to strangers, who may not be likely to keep
the terms of surrender, however fairly they may offer them."

"It is fixed then," said Raymond Berenger. "Then, Dennis, thou
shalt go with me, and he shall remain behind.--Wilkin Flammock,"
he said, addressing the Fleming solemnly, "I speak not to thee the
language of chivalry, of which thou knowest nothing; but, as thou
art an honest man, and a true Christian, I conjure thee to stand
to the defence of this castle. Let no promise of the enemy draw
thee to any base composition--no threat to any surrender. Relief
must speedily arrive, if you fulfil your trust to me and to my
daughter, Hugo de Lacy will reward you richly--if you fail, he
will punish you severely."

"Sir Knight," said Flammock, "I am pleased you have put your trust
so far in a plain handicraftsman. For the Welsh, I am come from a
land for which we were compelled--yearly compelled--to struggle
with the sea; and they who can deal with the waves in a tempest,
need not fear an undisciplined people in their fury. Your daughter
shall be as dear to me as mine own; and in that faith you may
prick forth--if, indeed, you will not still, like a wiser man,
shut gate, down portcullis, up drawbridge, and let your archers
and my crossbows man the wall, and tell the knaves you are not the
fool that they take you for."

"Good fellow, that must not be," said the Knight. "I hear my
daughter's voice," he added hastily; "I would not again meet her,
again to part from her. To Heaven's keeping I commit thee, honest
Fleming.--Follow me, Dennis Morolt."

The old Castellane descended the stair of the southern tower
hastily, just as his daughter Eveline ascended that of the eastern
turret, to throw herself at his feet once more. She was followed
by the Father Aldrovand, chaplain of her father; by an old and
almost invalid huntsman, whose more active services in the field
and the chase had been for some time chiefly limited to the
superintendence of the Knight's kennels, and the charge especially
of his more favourite hounds; and by Rose Flammock, the daughter
of Wilkin, a blue-eyed Flemish maiden, round, plump, and shy as a
partridge, who had been for some time permitted to keep company
with the high-born Norman damsel, in a doubtful station, betwixt
that of an humble friend and a superior domestic. Eveline rushed
upon the battlements, her hair dishevelled, and her eyes drowned
in tears, and eagerly demanded of the Fleming where her father
was.

Flammock made a clumsy reverence, and attempted some answer; but
his voice seemed to fail him. He turned his back upon Eveline
without ceremony, and totally disregarding the anxious inquiries
of the huntsman and the chaplain, he said hastily to his daughter,
in his own language, "Mad work! mad work! look to the poor maiden,
Roschen--_Der alter Herr ist verruckt_." [Footnote: The old
lord is frantic.]

Without farther speech he descended the stairs, and never paused
till he reached the buttery. Here he called like a lion for the
controller of these regions, by the various names of Kammerer,
Keller-master, and so forth, to which the old Reinold, an ancient
Norman esquire, answered not, until the Netherlander fortunately
recollected his Anglo-Norman title of butler. This, his regular
name of office, was the key to the buttery-hatch, and the old man
instantly appeared, with his gray cassock and high rolled hose, a
ponderous bunch of keys suspended by a silver chain to his broad
leathern girdle, which, in consideration of the emergency of the
time, he had thought it right to balance on the left side with a
huge falchion, which seemed much too weighty for his old arm to
wield.

"What is your will," he said, "Master Flammock? or what are your
commands, since it is my lord's pleasure that they shall be laws
to me for a time?"

"Only a cup of wine, good Meister Keller-master--butler, I mean."

"I am glad you remember the name of mine office," said Reinold,
with some of the petty resentment of a spoiled domestic, who
thinks that a stranger has been irregularly put in command over
him.

"A flagon of Rhenish, if you love me," answered the Fleming, "for
my heart is low and poor within me, and I must needs drink of the
best."

"And drink you shall," said Reinold, "if drink will give you the
courage which perhaps you want."--He descended to the secret
crypts, of which he was the guardian, and returned with a silver
flagon, which might contain about a quart.--"Here is such wine,"
said Reinold, "as thou hast seldom tasted," and was about to pour
it out into a cup.

"Nay, the flagon--the flagon, friend Reinold; I love a deep and
solemn draught when the business is weighty," said Wilkin. He
seized on the flagon accordingly, and drinking a preparatory
mouthful, paused as if to estimate the strength and flavour of the
generous liquor. Apparently he was pleased with both, for he
nodded in approbation to the butler; and, raising the flagon to
his mouth once more, he slowly and gradually brought the bottom of
the vessel parallel with the roof of the apartment, without
suffering one drop of the contents to escape him.

"That hath savour, Herr Keller-master," said he, while he was
recovering his breath by intervals, after so long a suspense of
respiration; "but, may Heaven forgive you for thinking it the best
I have ever tasted! You little know the cellars of Ghent and of
Ypres."

"And I care not for them," said Reinold; "those of gentle Norman
blood hold the wines of Gascony and France, generous, light, and
cordial, worth all the acid potations of the Rhine and the
Neckar."

"All is matter of taste," said the Fleming; "but hark ye--Is there
much of this wine in the cellar?"

"Methought but now it pleased not your dainty palate?" said
Reinold.

"Nay, nay, my friend," said Wilkin, "I said it had savour--I may
have drunk better--but this is right good, where better may not be
had.--Again, how much of it hast thou?"

"The whole butt, man," answered the butler; "I have broached a
fresh piece for you."

"Good," replied Flammock; "get the quart-pot of Christian measure;
heave the cask up into this same buttery, and let each soldier of
this castle be served with such a cup as I have here swallowed. I
feel it hath done me much good--my heart was sinking when I saw
the black smoke arising from mine own fulling-mills yonder. Let
each man, I say, have a full quart-pot--men defend not castles on
thin liquors."

"I must do as you will, good Wilkin Flammock," said the butler;
"but I pray you, remember all men are not alike. That which will
but warm your Flemish hearts, will put wildfire into Norman
brains; and what may only encourage your countrymen to man the
walls, will make ours fly over the battlements."

"Well, you know the conditions of your own countrymen best; serve
out to them what wines and measure you list--only let each Fleming
have a solemn quart of Rhenish.--But what will you do for the
English churls, of whom there are a right many left with us?"

The old butler paused, and rubbed his brow.--"There will be a
strange waste of liquor," he said; "and yet I may not deny that
the emergency may defend the expenditure. But for the English,
they are, as you wot, a mixed breed, having much of your German
sullenness, together with a plentiful touch of the hot blood of
yonder Welsh furies. Light wines stir them not; strong heavy
draughts would madden them. What think you of ale, an
invigorating, strengthening liquor, that warms the heart without
inflaming the brain?"

"Ale!" said the Fleming.--"Hum--ha--is your ale mighty, Sir
Butler?--is it double ale?"

"Do you doubt my skill?" said the butler.--"March and October have
witnessed me ever as they came round, for thirty years, deal with
the best barley in Shropshire.--You shall judge."

He filled, from a large hogshead in the corner of the buttery, the
flagon which the Fleming had just emptied, and which was no sooner
replenished than Wilkin again drained it to the bottom.

"Good ware," he said, "Master Butler, strong stinging ware. The
English churls will fight like devils upon it--let them be
furnished with mighty ale along with their beef and brown bread.
And now, having given you your charge, Master Reinold, it is time
I should look after mine own."

Wilkin Flammock left the buttery, and with a mien and judgment
alike undisturbed by the deep potations in which he had so
recently indulged, undisturbed also by the various rumours
concerning what was passing without doors, he made the round of
the castle and its outworks, mustered the little garrison, and
assigned to each their posts, reserving to his own countrymen the
management of the arblasts, or crossbows, and of the military
engines which were contrived by the proud Normans, and were
incomprehensible to the ignorant English, or, more properly,
Anglo-Saxons, of the period, but which his more adroit countrymen
managed with great address. The jealousies entertained by both the
Normans and English, at being placed under the temporary command
of a Fleming, gradually yielded to the military and mechanical
skill which he displayed, as well as to a sense of the emergency,
which became greater with every moment.

Sir Walter Scott